Incorporate experiences — The younger generation of travellers want to do exciting experiences while they are on holiday, not just lie on a beach all day sipping martinis. Businesses which incorporate experiential travel into their offering will attract more attention from millennials.
As part of my series about “exciting developments in the travel industry over the next five years”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Galena Stavreva, the CEO of SpareFare.net — a secure secondary marketplace for flights, hotel rooms and package holidays. Travel is great, and SpareFare’s marketplace is all about turning the less fun parts of it — such as cancellations — into new deals that improve the status quo for everyone.
Thank you so much for joining us Galena! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Igraduated with a law degree from the London school of Economics and spent a few years working as a solicitor in London (that’s a British lawyer, for the non-Brits reading this!). SpareFare was born out of personal frustration — I had to cancel quite a few holidays and knew that I could sell them to other people, but none of my friends wanted to buy the reservations. I realised that a lot of other people have the same problem and saw a gap in the travel market. I have always wanted to have my own business and started my first attempts when I was 6, but SpareFare is my first deep-dive into the world of entrepreneurship.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I have made so many mistakes and will make many more — this is just an inevitable part of the learning process! A really funny situation I still remember is when I had to present SpareFare at a travel conference in Bulgaria. The conference is in Bulgarian and that’s my native language, so I did not really practice much beforehand. After all, I know everything there is to know about SpareFare and I was speaking in my mother tongue. Only after appearing on stage did I realise that presenting SpareFare in Bulgarian did not come to me as easily as speaking about the business in English. I was already on stage and had to improvise massively while keeping my cool. I laughed so much about it afterwards, but it did not seem funny at the moment!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We play by the rules and make sure our customers do so, too. The travel industry is ripe with rules and regulations and it takes some time to understand them all. All travel providers have their own individual rules as well and the whole landscape can seem hard to navigate. Since our service is new and no one had really done this before, I personally read the terms & conditions of airlines, hotels and travel agents to make sure SpareFare and its customers comply. A competitor who recently stopped trading was very tempted to allow the sale of all sorts of travel tickets, including rail and Eurostar tickets. It is illegal to resell train tickets in the UK and it is also not allowed to resell Eurostar tickets, and they were featured in the news about facilitating this ‘illegal’ exchange. I believe that their blatant disregard for the rules played a big part of their demise.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”? Can you share a story about that?
It does not matter if you are busy or not. The only thing that matters is whether you are fruitful — are you producing results or not. You do this by keeping your focus. You should not have more than three or four main projects you are working on. These should all be things which will get you to your next goal. If an opportunity or a request comes in, which is not part of these main projects, just say no. When you are just starting out it may seem difficult to know where to focus on, but it gets easier with practice. If a meeting, speaking engagement or anything else comes up and it is nice to have but not part of the steps that take you to your next goal, just decline politely. Burning out comes from doing too much. You don’t need to do too much — do just one thing at a time, but do it well.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My wonderful husband has been a vital part of SpareFare’s success and growth from day one. He is my co-founder and none of this would have been possible without him. Entrepreneurship is difficult, and it is extra hard when you are doing it for the first time. You won’t have a team at the very beginning and having someone to discuss ideas with is invaluable.
Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the travel and hospitality industries?
SpareFare.net helps travellers sell their unwanted flights and hotel reservations to people looking for bargain holidays. It is like eBay for travel but with verified transfers and no ticket touts. We give travellers refunds for their non-refundable reservations and genuine, deep discounts for flights and hotel reservations. Sellers can recoup some the money they paid for their non-refundable trips, while buyers get a true discount of up to 50–60% by not paying the current price of the bookings. A win-win for everyone involved. SpareFare acts as an intermediary, ensuring that the exchanges on the platform are secure.
Travel fraud is rampant and this prevents the sale of travel reservations on general listing platforms like eBay or Gumtree. To accommodate the exchanges, SpareFare verifies all sales and also operates an escrow service, where we hold the buyer’s money until they travel and only then we pay sellers. Our expert customer services support helps travellers navigate the complex terms & conditions of travel providers and ensures that sellers are always aware of the name change fees and other rules imposed by airlines, hotels and travel agents.
Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation?
A lot of the travel reservations are non-refundable and if you can’t go, you lose the money you paid for your holiday. Luckily, many of these reservations are refundable — the name of the passenger can be changed and the booking can be sold to someone else. We are helping sellers recover at least some of the cost of their non-refundable holidays. On the other hand, we are also helping buyers travel cheaper — all offers on SpareFare are sold at a significant discount to the current live prices of flights and hotel reservations. For flexible travellers, the bargains on the site are the absolute best out there — it is like someone else has already paid for part of your holiday!
How do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?
We are on a mission to make travelling cheaper and easier for everyone. We are doing this by creating a new type of shared economy in travel. SpareFare’s solution is a win-win for everyone involved. It makes no sense for so many travellers to lose money on non-refundable reservations, while, at the same time, may people want to travel more, but cannot afford it. Trekksoft 2019 travel trends report acknowledged that SpareFare ‘fills a massive gap in the tourism industry, and will become its own tourism trend from 2019.’
The creation of this secondary market makes travelling easier and cheaper for everyone. Our sellers recover on average around 50% of the money they have paid for their trips. Our buyers report saving between £200 and £500 when using SpareFare. Without our platform, all of these amazing refunds and travel bargains would be lost. We are turning wasted opportunities into happy memories.
Can you share 3 examples of how travel and hospitality companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers like to travel?
Today’s consumers have a great choice of offers and this makes them very demanding and impatient, which is great, because it keeps companies on their toes and constantly improving. I think travel and hospitality companies will need to focus on these three main travel trends:
1. Personalised travel — consumers expect and want brands to tailor their information based on personal preferences or past behaviors.
2. Guide users — the vast choice of travel destinations, hotels, transfers and experiences is great, but also very overwhelming and time-consuming for the time-poor customer. Some traveller even say it can be stressful! Companies will be expected to assist today’s travelers with decision-making at every step of the journey.
3. Incorporate experiences — The younger generation of travellers want to do exciting experiences while they are on holiday, not just lie on a beach all day sipping martinis. Businesses which incorporate experiential travel into their offering will attract more attention from millennials.
You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?
I live in London, where it is always raining and cold, so a sunny destination is always my top choice. The perfect vacation is a mixture of leisure time on the beach plus a few exiting adventures and opportunities to meet local people and to talk to them about their life.
Can you share with our readers how have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Apart from genuinely helping our users get out of difficult situations, I also believe in investing in charitable causes. SpareFare is currently supporting a project in Bulgaria for children in orphanages, which prepares volunteers and teachers who work with the children and help them with their professional realization.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would legalise drugs and use the proceeds to treat the addicted. Drug addicts do not need jail, they need treatment. Everybody who wants to buy drugs can do so, so clearly our current laws are not stopping the access to the drugs. The current system only benefits the drug distribution networks.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can stay up-to-date with our deeply discounted holidays and free giveaways by searching SpareFare on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!